May

Visual Female of the Month – May

– Claire Doyle

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Claire Doyle is a feminist artist from England whose work focuses around gender and the stigmatised body. Primarily a performance artist, Claire also works in other media, photographing for Parallel magazine, as well as being a qualified scenographer. I have already shared one of Claire’s performances (Habitual Body Monitoring) in my post Genital Panic, but with such a strong feminist voice, I wanted to get to know more about this talented artist and empowered woman – and I am happy I did.

Now for the interview…

Tell us a little bit about your art and the mediums you work in.

I am a feminist artist, researching the stigma surrounding genitalia and gender. I am still searching for my official artist title! I believe it is somewhere between performance artist, photographer, scenographer and installation artist. However, one recurring theme throughout my work is audience participation. If my work doesn’t encourage the audience to challenge and communicate the topic at hand, something is wrong! The audience often become the performers during my work as they interact with the work physically and communicate vocally. My work attempts to create thought and spread knowledge that is fundamental to everybody, regardless of age, gender and sexuality. I hope that by having the opportunity to become a part of my work, the audience can have their individual unbiased experience that will encourage thought.

How do you think performance art differs from more conventional art?

Performance art is a live and ephemeral experience for both the audience and artist. It could be argued that any medium of art is performative, whether in it’s process or it’s display. In terms of performance art, the audience experience the live, raw journey that the (often vulnerable) artist takes. This is very different, in my experience, to other mediums of art were the process is personal to the artist and the exhibit stands freely for an audience. Performance art begins the process with the audience and ends the process with the audience. The audience become the art in their presence or viewing.

You’re a proud feminist. Has feminism always driven the art you make?

Absolutely! I remember drawing plants and landscapes at GCSE and A level art feeling very empty and unchallenged even though I had such a desire to make and create! I soon discovered the potential art has to express my own confused thoughts towards gender and oppressed female lives. The lines between feminism and art are blurring for me recently.

What projects do you have coming up?

I have been researching and collecting material for a menstrual blood exhibition and zine. This all came about when I visited a nurse for a new contraceptive implant. Concerned and looking for reassurance, I told the nurse that I hadn’t experienced a period in three years due to the contraception. It was making me feel very distant from my cycle and worried about future fertility. The nurse’s reaction was to laugh and tell me not to worry! Feeling embarrassed, I decided to celebrate all the bleeding bodies by asking volunteers to send me photographs of their periods! These pictures (and other menstrual blood art) will be exhibited in full glory summer 2016 and a small zine will be made summer 2015.

Applications are still open for anybody interested at clairedoyleart@gmail.com

Who are your favourite feminist artists and why?

VALIE EXPORT because she challenges gender politics to the max! She even changed her name for the right to belong as an individual without male significance. Catherine Breillat because the brutality and honesty of her films make me wince and feel ill for days. Don’t let this put you off! Once you go Breillat you don’t go back!

Does gender play a role in the art world? What challenges do you feel female artists face?

I have seen a lot of documentaries about the discrimination of women in the art world. I am also a fan of Guerrilla Girls. I have ‘The Advantages Of Being A Woman Artist’ postcard on my bedside table and often find myself giving it a nod as if it understands me more than anyone! However, the one challenge that stands out to me as a female, and more specifically, a feminist artist, are saying such as “have you considered doing something different… lighter… fun?” or “I don’t want to put you in the feminist artist box but…” or “are you still doing your… woman stuff?”! There is still a lot of ignorance towards feminism but I am not ashamed of spreading awareness of issues such as FGM and sexual health as a feminist artist.

If you could pick any artist in the world (dead or alive) to paint a portrait of you, who would it be and why?

Matthew Barney because his imagination would vision me like no other artist.

If you somehow hurt your vision, would you choose to wear glasses or contacts?

Glasses all the way. They look awesome!

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Excluding sight, what two other senses are your favourites?

Taste and sound

5 most pleasant things to look at:

Smiles

Fresh and inspiring art

Fairy lights (preferably flashing)

Glitter

My friends dancing to sweet tunes

5 least pleasant things to look at:

Rejected high fives

Media that degrades bodies

Beautiful clothes I can’t afford

Sprouts

This painful spot on my chin.

Who is the most inspiring woman you know and why?

Marina Abramovic (I don’t personally know this goddess of a women BUT she did look at me once when I visited her art work… and I fangirled like no fan girl ever fangirled before)!

Marina was my introduction to performance art. Marina was my realisation that art doesn’t have to please. Marina is fearless and a true inspiration, and although I don’t follow her work or methods as passionately as I used to, she’s still the reason my work began.

What is your favourite thing about yourself?

I quite like my back (I rock backless dresses)! I’ve also been told that my natural body confidence gives people a new-found love for themselves. I think that’s pretty cool. I imagine a world with all women feeling sensational, hairy, and make­upless.

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What is on your bedroom walls currently?

A collection of random sketches and art works. Two big dream catchers, one of which is made of matted wool that I found at a car boot sale for 10 pence! Bunting cut out flowers that I made for a festival. A beautiful empty frame I found in an antique shop

Favourite clothing / accessory / product at the moment?

I’m currently leotard mad! No bra necessary, hugs your body, backless, and it’s a great excuse to use those old swimming costumes any time of year (swimming costume side note: a spilled drink over yourself won’t matter at all)!!

Favourite artist at the moment:

Tehching Hsieh, an artist that worked with durational performances lasting a year long.

And finally, any words of advice for people stepping into the creative sector?

Network with anyone and everyone. Make bold, honest and fearless work. Display your work with no shame.

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See more of Claire’s work at: www.clairedoyleart.com

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